Why the Detroit Zoo Over All Others - The Awesome Mitten
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3 Reasons to Visit the Detroit Zoo This Winter

Why should you go to the Detroit Zoo over another Michigan zoo? Specifically, why should you visit the Detroit Zoo this winter?  

During the cold winter months, the last thing on many peoples’ minds is a day trip to the zoo. That’s only reserved for summer vacation fun with the kids, right?

Nope! Visiting the Detroit Zoo during the winter is one of the best winter things to do in Michigan

Why the Detroit Zoo Over All Others - The Awesome Mitten
Singage throughout Detroit Zoo to help guide you. Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz.

On a random winter day, I bucked the trend and navigated my way to Royal Oak. I purchased my ticket and paid for parking. Inside the park of 2000+ animals of hundreds of different species, it became apparent why you should get to the Detroit Zoo TODAY.

It’s the Off-Season

Other people were there as well, but I felt like I had the zoo all to myself. It was “the off-season.” I had a front-row pass to see all the animals and for however long I desired.

Many people don’t know that the Detroit Zoo is open year-round.

Why the Detroit Zoo Over All Others - The Awesome Mitten
Have the Detroit Zoo all to myself! Who is that off to the right ahead? Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz.

To my advantage, the animals were more interactive than usual. Several of the staff members explained the reason behind this to me. During the hot and humid months, animals tend to want to hide in the shade and be lazy. (Don’t we all?)

Sure, the concession stands weren’t open, but I was relaxed in the cool air and the zebras were moving about without a care in the world.

Get Up-Close With the Penguins

The Polk Penguin Conservation Center was the best benefit of the empty zoo. There are eighty penguins of four different species housed at the Detroit Zoo. Their habitat is a simulated environment of their natural habitat.

The Detroit Zoo’s Polk Penguin Conversation Center is the biggest center for penguin learning in the world. Yes, that is right here in the Mitten!

Why the Detroit Zoo Over All Others - The Awesome Mitten
Eighty penguins of four specifies in the Polk Penguin Conservation Center. Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz.

I mingled with a couple of Gentoo penguins up-close as they came right up to the glass. The male penguins were placing rocks in a circle, as it was mating season. One-on-one interaction with exhibitors taught me these tidbits.

I proceeded downstairs where I watched the penguins swim circles from above and alongside.

Tip: During the summer when you enter the zoo, you get a scheduled time to go into the penguin center. Even then, good luck getting right up to the glass to see the penguins. Make winter the time to get here.

Per the Detroit Free Press in August 2021: “The Detroit Zoo’s popular Polk Penguin Conservation Center — which closed in September 2019 for an estimated nine months of building repairs — remains shuttered nearly two years later. A reopening date has not been announced.”

Enjoy the Vitamin Z

My boy is still too young to truly experience the Detroit Zoo. Soon, though, he will take in a lot of “Vitamin Z.” He will experience lots of random moments of awe and joy.

Vitamin Z was an award-winning campaign that centers on children enjoying everything the zoo has to offer.

Why the Detroit Zoo Over All Others - The Awesome Mitten
Many animals out-and-about throughout the Detroit Zoo. Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz.

I think some of the ‘Vitamin Z’ rubbed off on me as I checked out the camels, tigers, giraffes, lions, anteaters, reptiles, butterflies, and more. The blood was flowing from all the walking and excitement on the zoo’s 125 acres.

Another highlight as I enjoyed the outdoors was The Arctic Ring of Life. I headed back underground to a seventy-foot walkway, watching numerous seals swim all around me.

I got my polar bear fix at the largest exhibit of its kind in North America. The Detroit Zoo doesn’t do small!

Fact: The Detroit Zoo is the largest paid family attraction in Michigan.

Why the Detroit Zoo Over All Others - The Awesome Mitten
Watching the seals swim alongside in the Arctic Ring of Life. Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz.

At the back of the grounds, I learned that the Detroit Zoo is the first in the United States to use exhibits without bars. This zoo helped revolutionize the entire field, I cannot wait to hear what they have up their sleeve next.  

They take it a step further at the Australian Outback Adventure. I walked among many kangaroos and a wallaby with no barriers. Sadly, no hopping took place on the sidewalk alongside me.

What a day! Have you been to the Detroit Zoo in the winter?

More to Do in Metro Detroit This Winter

A visit to the Detroit Zoo this winter is just the tip of the iceberg of all the amazing winter things to do in Metro Detroit! From the best Metro Detroit cross country skiing trails to shopping at locally-owned stores across the region, there is no shortage of ways to enjoy winter in southeast Michigan!

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3 Comments

  1. Good job Aaron, I grew up in Southfield and ALWAYS enjoyed the Detroit Zoo. I got another opportunity to visit AGAIN, September 2019. It was as wonderful as ever!

  2. How old is this article? It’s dated 2021, but the penguin exhibit has been closed for over two years now with no announced reopening date…

    1. Thanks for letting us know, Paul. The article is several years old and while we recently updated another section of it (thus the 2021 date at the top), we were not aware of the penguin exhibit closure – we’ll get that corrected!

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